Gansey was dying.
Metaphorically. Hyperbole about such a thing had lost the potential to be a joke after his second death, probably. And despite Calla's incessant "Better with three!" hollering at him whenever he paid Blue a visit at 300 Fox Way, he wasn't ready for a third go-around. At least not until much, much later in his resurrected life.
No, Gansey was having an existential crisis because he had forgotten his diary at Monmouth Manufacturing, and now he had to survive a full day of classes at Aglionby without it.
He'd call it a journal to anyone else, but addressed the leather-bound booklet with the "diary" endearment each time he began his entries. He found it therapeutic, to talk to someone about the mess they'd pulled themselves out of last fall. It still contained old entries from his Glendower hunting days, and several sketches and poems endured as proof of what a wistful boy he was.
Still is a wistful boy, but he was back then, too.
Today, during his diary-less day, he fidgeted a ballpoint pen against his desk, elegant marbled casing thumping against the wood. It was a gift he'd received in a long black box from his father for Christmas. He considered switching it out for his calligraphy fountain pen, but didn't want to overuse the tip. Plenty of pages in his diary swirled with his slanted script, and the right pen was always so hard to find.
Maybe it was a blessing that he wouldn't be able to write a new entry today. His grades had been slipping, slightly — doodling in the margins of his diary and jotting down errant ideas for adventures sapped his attention from lectures. Often he spiraled in some less-than-productive thoughts about the nature of his humanity, questioning if existence qualified as sufficient realness, and he recalled that his previous entry looked much like this:
Sometimes I wonder if I am a real boy. I don't mean to plagiarize Pinocchio, but I was fundamentally remade by magic twice. It's a really valid question. Jane says that I am just like her now: part tree, to her kinetic delight. Oh, kin, get it? Just like her? Okay, well. Ronan says that I have always been part magic, but that particular lapse in hostility was likely due to his inebriation. Adam asks me how I'm doing, mostly. It's his lack of assumptions I appreciate most but also thinking too hard about what's in my own head makes me feel lost.
I still feel like me, though. Same contact lenses, same car keys, same wanderlust, but that part's bigger these days. More timeless. Can you want to adventure into the past, present, and future all at once? I think I've found a way. If all of your pieces are still intact, is the whole just the same? I think I'm in over my foresty head. Try to think of an answer for me next time, won't you?
Yours, sincerely, always,
Gansey (I hope)
The final bell rang. The classroom noisily transitioned into a rush of bags being packed, plans being made, shoulders jostled and hair rustled. Gansey sighed. He still had extracurriculars to attend, professors to speak to. Adam would be off to work for a few hours, so they couldn't accompany each other back to Monmouth, where they agreed they would both be studying until late —
Boy, yes, that's what I am —
"Henry," Gansey replied brightly. "My good prince."
Henry's hair and smile defied laws of physics, but when he spied Gansey's pen spinning about agitated fingers, his expression turned more sympathetic. "All right there? Look like you've seen a ghost."
"I have," Gansey said. He set down the pen to clasp Henry's palm in greeting. "Just not today."
Club meeting running late, Gansey texted, hours later, phone tucked close to his chest. I'll have to miss dinner, unfortunately.
take your time dick
Flattered to have gotten a response at all, Gansey hastily typed back. He never corrected Ronan on his nomenclature anymore. Lost causes and Ronan Lynch were old friends.
Save me some wings, we should be done shortly.
no really take your time
Two texts from Ronan in under two minutes — normally, he would take his good fortune and run with it, but the itching nature of the day and the instant dismissal of his tardiness stirred Gansey's senses that something was up.
"Not sticking around?" Johnson said as the meeting adjourned, Gansey already heading for the door.
"We bought all these donuts," Geary added, thumbing behind him to the layers of pink boxes across the desks.
"I have a dinner to attend," Gansey said, waving them off politely. To the Aglionby student body, his excuse probably sounded more like I have to go dump a pound of caviar down my throat and I won't even taste it. But dinners at Monmouth were scrappier, greasier, appreciative hums and full-bellied laughs all through the night. They were Blue's head in Gansey's lap, her hand rubbing his thigh whenever she felt like it, Henry's jovial arm wrapped around Gansey's shoulder. They were Ronan's legs on top of Adam's legs and his hand in Adam's hair and Adam wearing the easiest smile Gansey had ever seen on him, and it twisted something so brightly happy inside of him that he had to look away.
Days were theirs to frivol away, curses and tomb-raiding and evil Latin teachers all behind them.
When he got to the parking lot it was quiet and dim, the air forgiving and still, and the sight of his orange automotive miracle was a combusting sunspot on the dull pavement. He couldn't wait to get back, to get home, to kiss Blue, to unravel today's cares into textbooks and takeout.
On the third turn of his keys, the Camaro roared to life, chugging helplessly before remembering what taking a breath felt like. Reliably unreliable, as always. He cranked down the window on the drive away from campus, wind billowing through his hair and easing his worries. It all seemed so right, when he was like this. Just him, his car, the open air and open road. Maybe he didn't need the security of a diary, of writing it all down, making it physical and permanent and fastidious. He could just be. Moving on, moving forward. That sounded grand to Gansey-the-forest, and Henrietta rolled in waves as he passed it on by.
No one knocked to enter Monmouth anymore. The door swing freely and welcoming on its well-worn hinges, and Gansey greeted the interior as he stepped through the threshold. "Hey, guys —"
Three heads whipped up when the door shut. Adam, wide-eyed and hunched, pressed into Ronan's side on the couch. That was familiar, that was normal. The two were usually seen at each other's side, and it no longer gave Gansey pause but delighted him, plain and simple, that his friends had found comfort in each other. Sometimes the four of them competed for gross levels of PDA, until Henry joined in on Gansey's and Blue's side and they inevitably won the contest. (In his modest opinion.)
Ronan himself looked like he had committed a crime, which was also normal. But Blue — oh, beautiful and miraculous and wild Blue — looked like his guilty co-conspirator. They were all huddled on the couch over an oddly familiar leather rectangle, and realization pitted in Gansey's stomach.
"Oh, no," he said, and dropped his bag to the floor.
For a moment, they just stared each other down. A standoff, where the first one to break would be the one blamed for the whole thing. Then Ronan began reading from the diary, in a bold and booming voice, "My beloved Glendower —" and Blue roared with laughter and Adam wheezed and fell off the couch.
All Gansey could think was that he'd accept his third death anytime.